‘Have you seen me commit a crime?’ Police question Black photographer in Arlington

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A Black photographer was questioned by police in Arlington, Virginia, after a neighbor called the authorities on him days before Christmas, as seen in a video posted to Facebook.

Marlon Crutchfield — a professional real estate photographer, retired Army veteran and Bronze Star recipient — said the incident started after a man asked him if he needed any help while Crutchfield waited for a Dec. 21 appointment in the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood.

“Every Black person knows what this means,” Crutchfield wrote. “After the gentleman didn’t get the response he expected, he reached out to a few other neighbors one of them called the police. 10 mins later I was pulled out of the house where my appointment was and interrogated by Arlington’s finest.”

He added: “NEVER have I been so embarrassed. It was hurtful and demeaning in so many ways.”

Crutchfield also wrote on his Facebook posting that over the years, “I’ve had several run-ins with nosy neighbors concerned that a Black man was parked in their neighborhood. Usually it’s “can I help you” and I reply wit a quick “no.” Then it’s what are you taking pictures for. I never respond to that one. It’s simply none of their business.”

Crutchfield can be heard on the video asking why he’s being questioned by police.

“Have you seen me commit a crime? Has anybody seen me commit a crime?” Crutchfield asked one of the officers.

“A lot of times you don’t see the crime happen and we have to investigate it,” the officer responded.

“I’m not showing you my ID. You want to take me to jail?” Crutchfield replied.

“I’m not taking you to jail,” the officer said, before saying Crutchfield was escalating the situation.

During the incident, more officers arrived — Crutchfield counted three police vehicles — while a homeowner slams the call as racist: “She didn’t say one word, and I was with him, and I’m white. … I’m with him and she didn’t say anything about me.”

Police left the scene shortly after the exchange.

“Above all else, the Arlington County Police Department is committed to the principle that all individuals will be treated with dignity and respect,” an Arlington spokesperson said. “We strictly adhere to the protections afforded by the Constitution to assure everyone‘s rights are safeguarded, and we take our responsibility to protect our diverse and inclusive community willingly and without reservation.”

“The Department recognizes community concerns when investigating calls for service involving suspicious persons, vehicles, and activity. In order to ensure public safety within our community, officers have a duty to respond to dispatched calls for service and fully investigate the circumstances surrounding them.”

The Arlington branch of the NAACP decried the incident.

“In Arlington, we can get complacent and think this could never happen here. But it did,” Branch President Julius Spain Sr. and First Vice President Kent Carter wrote in a statement on Sunday.

“The Black man is questioned by police, who refuse to accept his word about his lawful activities, and instead demand his identification. All of this occurred while he stood on the porch of the home where he was a guest, with the homeowner supporting him and asking police to leave her property.

“This must stop. It is not a crime to be Black, it is not a crime to be on any street in Arlington, and it is certainly not a crime to be an invited guest in another’s home,” the statement said. “This incident and the initial call to police is an example of the everyday racism and bias which continues to plague our communities.”

Read the full Arlington County Police Department statement below:

“The Police Department is aware of the video posted to Facebook, showing an interaction between officers and a person which was filmed during a call for service on December 21, 2020. Above all else, the Arlington County Police Department is committed to the principle that all individuals will be treated with dignity and respect. We strictly adhere to the protections afforded by the Constitution to assure everyone‘s rights are safeguarded, and we take our responsibility to protect our diverse and inclusive community willingly and without reservation. The information below provides a summary of the dispatched call for service.

At approximately 10:35 a.m. on December 21, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious person in the area of Southgate Road and South Orme Street. The reporting party advised that the male subject had been taking photos of the Southgate entrance to Joint Base Myer Henderson Hall. The reporting party provided additional information that the subject had left the area of the entrance and entered a nearby residence. Officers made contact with the subject, explained the reason for the call for service, and spoke briefly with the individual.

The Department recognizes community concerns when investigating calls for service involving suspicious persons, vehicles, and activity. In order to ensure public safety within our community, officers have a duty to respond to dispatched calls for service and fully investigate the circumstances surrounding them. We appreciate that what constitutes suspicious behavior can be ambiguous, but we must work together to ensure police are notified of suspicious behaviors that could represent a threat to our community, while at the same time ensuring that the focus remains on the behaviors of a person and nothing else. We are committed to continuing to work collaboratively with the Arlington community to ensure we remain one of the safest communities in the Country.

While the behaviors described to ACPD were considered suspicious in nature given all of the circumstances, it was determined that no local crime had been committed, officers cleared the call without taking further action, and the entire interaction with the individual lasted under four minutes.”

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